DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were married nearly two years ago, and our honeymoon was a leisurely trip across the country to the beautiful area where my husband had accepted a job. I was careful to write thank-you notes promptly to everyone who was kind enough to send us a gift. Since the wedding was the first opportunity I’d had to meet many members of my husband’s extended family, I tried to express warm regards and a desire to get to know them better at the same time.
I bought beautiful stationery rather than pre-printed thank-you cards, and expressed our gratitude, as well as our hopes that, if they found themselves in our area, we would have the chance to see them again. The letters began and ended with expressions of gratitude, and I believed that it was clear that my primary purpose in writing them was to offer thanks. In my family, this would be considered the most appropriate way to respond, because of the effort and thought that goes into a handwritten note.
My husband made no protest, so I assumed, wrongly, that this would be acceptable to his family as well. A few days ago, my mother-in-law called, outraged that I had not sent a single thank-you to anyone in her family. I could certainly understand that a letter might go missing in the mail, so I asked her who did not receive their note.
She informed me that no one did -- all anybody got was “those stupid letters!”
I am embarrassed at this misunderstanding, and a bit hurt, too. Obviously, if there is ever a gift in the future, I will buy a card, as I understand that the most appropriate way to offer thanks is always the way that will most please the recipient.
Since my husband’s family was apparently offended, do I buy cards now, grovel, and try to remember who gave us money and who gave a casserole dish? And if so, how do I beg forgiveness without an undertone of, “Sorry my best efforts weren’t good enough”?
GENTLE READER: This is one for your husband to handle. Miss Manners is afraid that it would not go over well for you to say, “Ma, are you nuts? Those were letters of thanks. They specifically said how grateful we are. Would you please explain that to anyone who thinks that a form card is better?” But he should.